Christina Russell has noticed a growing trend among millennials: Many are picking pooches over parenthood.
“Younger people tend to be getting married later and defer having children,” said the president of pet care franchise Camp Bow Wow, which created a day camp for dogs. “A lot of times, people fill that gap with pets.”
But as the playgrounds get quiet and the dog parks grow populated, Russell has noticed that businesses and their benefits packages aren’t always keeping up with such trends.
“You have employees coming in from an urban area, where these younger people don’t necessarily have yards,” Russell said. “They’re having to figure out what to do with that pet during the day. The hard part is they can’t manage that.”
Some companies offer subsidies for day care, but that policy often only applies to children. Russell argues these benefits programs shouldn’t ignore pets.
“People think of them as family members in this day and age,” she said.
This is exactly the type of problem the “401 K-9” program offered at Camp Bow Wow’s franchise location in Oak Park, Illinois, hopes to solve.
A play on 401(k) retirement programs, the 401 K-9 is a voluntary employee benefits program that provides daycare services at a discounted rate to employees of companies near a local Camp Bow Wow franchise.
The idea originated from a brainstorming meeting in 2008, where the Camp Bow Wow team devised new ways for franchise owners to grow their businesses. Nearly 60 franchises are involved in promoting this program to businesses in their area.
But even though companies who offer pet care subsidies are rare, they do exist.
Genentech Inc., a South San Francisco, California-based biotechnology giant, is also known for its pet-friendly policies.
Emmy Wang, a member of Genentech’s media team, said in an email that Genentech subsidizes “doggy daycares” at pet resorts near its corporate office.
Named as one of the top pet-friendly companies in the country by Fortune magazine, Genentech also offers other programs for pet owners, like pet insurance and pet meetups.
“Genentech provides a group discount on pet insurance that protects employee pets if they are injured or become ill. The insurance plan covers dogs, cats, birds and exotic pets,” Wang said. “Genentech also has employee resource groups, called ‘gDOGs,’ where employees can schedule meetups after hours and on the weekend to network, share advice and socialize their dogs.”
Microsoft Corp. also provides discounted pet care, said Molly Terrell, a member of the technology company’s media relations team.
Millennial workers are different than baby boomers. They aren’t just looking at salary anymore, according to Russell.
“Employees are coming from a new generation with new expectations. The things that they’re more attracted to in an employer are cultural — things that make a difference in how they feel in that nine-to-five period they’re there,” Russell said. “Money matters, but these intangibles can make the difference between employer A and employer B in terms of retention.”
Russell believes a pet-friendly company breeds a happy, healthy environment.
“It’s a warmth that it creates; it’s a calm that it creates,” she said. “When your pet is happy, you’re happy, too.”
Sarah Foster is an editorial intern at Workforce. Comment below or email at email@example.com. Follow Workforce on Twitter at @workforcenews.